JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israel is trying to persuade donor countries to sever support for the Palestinian Authority starting this weekend when a Hamas-led parliament is sworn in, Israeli officials said on Tuesday.
The United States and Israel hope to isolate a Hamas-led government financially and diplomatically in order to pressure it to renounce violence, recognise the Jewish state and honor interim agreements with Israel.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev cited a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for member states to freeze funding to “entities or persons involved in terrorist acts”, and he said talks were under way with foreign ministers about the timing of a funds cut-off.
“On Saturday, when the new Palestinian parliament is sworn in with a clear Hamas majority, a terrorist organisation has taken over the Palestinian government,” Regev said.
“According to international law, the minute a terrorist organisation takes over a political entity, the international community has an obligation not to give direct or indirect support,” he added, citing Resolution 1373.
Regev said the United States, the European Union, Japan, Canada and Australia were among the countries that classify Hamas as a “terrorist organization” and should now act.
One source familiar with U.S. and Israeli deliberations said a sustained clamp down on funding to the Palestinian Authority could destabilize a Hamas-led government to such an extent that President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate who advocates peace with Israel and has good relations with Washington, will call new elections.
But the source said such an outcome was “a long shot”.
Hamas brushed aside U.S. and Israeli efforts to isolate the group, and urged them to respect Hamas’s election victory.
“We urge all countries of the world to reconsider their policies regarding Hamas and the Palestinian people. Hamas is open for dialogue,” Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said.
Israeli officials denied a report in The New York Times that Israel and the United States were drafting a plan to destablise a Hamas-led government.
“We don’t have to do anything covert. We have an overt policy,” said a senior Israeli official.
Regev said: “The strategy is to present the incoming leadership of the Palestinian Authority a clear choice: either they transform themselves into a legitimate political interlocutor… or they face international isolation.”
But the United States and Israel may have a hard time sustaining a concerted campaign against Hamas, whose charter officially calls for the destruction of Israel.
Last week Russia said it would invite Hamas leaders to Moscow for direct talks.
And Iran could try to fill the financial void, though U.S. officials said they doubted Tehran would have the resources and know-how to keep the Palestinian Authority running without international support.
Palestinians receive about $1 billion a year from donors and the Palestinian Authority requires at least $100 million a month. Palestinian officials have said they expect Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states to boost the support they provide to the authority in the coming months.
Israel’s call for an immediate clamp down on international funding to the Palestinian Authority may also run afoul of the Quartet of Middle East mediators — the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
At a meeting on Jan 30, the Quartet said international donors should continue to aid Abbas’s caretaker government at least until a new government is formed by Hamas.
While a Hamas-led parliament will be sworn in on Saturday, it could take Hamas weeks to form a new government.
Hamas has masterminded nearly 60 suicide bombings against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000, but has largely adhered to a truce declared last March.